Friday, August 11, 2017

It's Art Jim - But Not As We Know It

Friday, July 28

Mark, The Child, and I drove to Storm King Art Center ( .  We got a little lost (our directions were Googly and sent us on a long loop), and wound up on the back roads of Bear Mountain overlooking Westpoint.  Eventually Mark saw signs directing us and pulled into the entrance--about a minute later, Megan and her two boys pulled up right behind us.

I'll confess that every time I encountered the name "Storm King," I thought of the web-comic "Girl Genius."  I was expecting something like a park filled with giant topiary meets Michelangelo's David meets The Enchanted Forrest.

What it was actually was mostly like the orange-red steel girder structures littering the greenways in various Eugene Interstate off-ramps.  Instantly, I heard Doctor McCoy's voice chanting, "It's worse than that it's Art, Jim," followed by Mr. Spock saying, "Well it's Art, Jim--but not as we know it."  Later, The Child added, "There's Artists off the starboard bow."    The place reminded me of Tina Howe's play, "Museum," especially when we found a series of plate steel panels cut into random shapes and painted white.

Mark seemed to really be into it, so I bit my lip and kept my sound-track internal.  The children were not quite so tactful.  Megan really liked a giant Buddha sculpture there.

I did like the giant columns near the visitors' center, which were out of proportion with everything else.  "We should get some and put them in front of our house," I said.  I probably giggled at the thought of thirty-five foot columns towering over our house.

"Go for it," Mark said.  "You could build them; but if they're ugly, I'm knocking 'em down."

"Oh, I think they're funny," I said, imagining them hollow, with a secret staircase, so you could climb to the top and meditate naked like an Old Testament prophet.

We took a tram for a quick overview of the 500 acre park--I'm pretty sure the recording was made by a former commando, probably from the Brutalist Architectural Style.

"Sea Current" was a motorized sculpture of two spiraling rods that was cool, and reminded me of a toy-sized executive desk gizmo.

There was a stone wall that playfully wove between trees, dunked under a lake, and came back up on the other side.   The undulating wall sequestered a grove into little shrines for single or a triplet of trees; in one, all there was was a stump with a saw-dust covered wall arcing around it.

There was a collection of culvert pipes, rusted brown and smooth, which for me was impossible not to see as a cathedral once you learned its title.  I liked it, and it was corporate in scale.  I meant to try to walk under and through it, but somehow that didn't happen.

From a distance, I liked "Orbit," a pole with spinning ribbons of chrome--which wanted to be an armillary sphere or a vertical sundial, but once I got close to it became a high-end garden spinner.

There was a tensegrity structure, "Free Ride Home," which was about twenty highly polished aluminum pipes suspended into a kind of cloud and held in place by the tension of the steel cables running from their ends.

Places like Storm King remind me that my art preferences in general lean toward the pedestrian and specifically to objects that have a high narrative value.  This bothers me a little, because it reminds me that authoritarians don't like art (and label it "subversive" or "decadent") if they can't understand it right away.  But then I put on some Phillip Glass or Laurie Anderson.

I'm never quite sure why what's at Storm King is Art, and it reminds me of the days at Arcosanti when we would have hotdog lunches and I would plunk two hotdogs between two buns on either side, with a knife placed placed diagonally across them onto a plate, call it "American Symmetry" and then make up an artist's statement involving the meat and steel industries, and corporate America's castration anxiety.  I loved lunches when I could make Hotdog Art.  Now if I could only open up an Art Store and sell black and white photos of Hotdog Art.

I think the pieces I liked the best --"Cathedral," "Sea Current," or "Free Ride Home" -- I liked more for their craft than for their art.  Or because they were shiny.  Or because I thought they were hilarious.  In trying to apply this to writing in general and what I do specifically, I guess I like well-crafted stories that aren't too opaque.  And I already know that I like eye-candy too much.

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